18 December 2014


Time flies!

A lot has happened in the two months since my last blog post.  

I spent almost 3 weeks in Ontario after the Front Gallery opening; first a few days with my family and then 2 weeks at Artscape Gibraltar Point, in a residency facilitated by Ross Melanson.  

The residency was intense and also very much fun.  Besides our private rooms, we had two studios, one of which we used for media things like movies and presentations, and the other which was our art-making studio.  Included in our group were Lynn Kelly, Alexia Estrellado, Ross Melanson and myself.  Our little group was extremely well-balanced and coherent.  We communicated and worked together beautifully, exchanging thoughts and ideas in a relaxed and supportive way.  The dynamic among us was just wonderful.  

I've included just a few photos in this post; more can be found at Steel Sky Woman facebook page.

serious artists

In signing up for this residency, I really wanted time and space to explore avenues of creative thinking/doing other than what I am used to here in Calgary; this idea fought with my desire to have a full complement of art-making materials at hand!

After much packing and re-packing, I arrived at a streamlined kit which fit into a 5x6x16" tackle box:

* 2 sketchbooks
* a few pencils, sharpies and China markers
* 12 tiny tubes of gouache (new to me)
* 4 tiny sample bottles of fluid acrylic
* a small bottle of gel medium
* a few paintbrushes

Not in the tackle box:
* a bunch of watercolour paper cut and folded into cards (worst case scenario: I would be bored and have the cards to fall back on, handy for xmas)
* an old-school tape recorder and a few blank cassette tapes.
* a sewing machine!  $20.oo used, via kijiji in Ontario, how cool is that?

What I did not bring: 

* my plein air painting kit. (*sniff* *sob*)  That was a tough decision.

So the kit I brought was very minimal.  Without my usual resources I would have to find other ways of creating.

First, while visiting with my family:

verna vogel
I made some drawings of my brother's favourite place along the river.  Not plein air painting, but drawing!  Why not, hehee.

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Some portraits of family members.  I broke open the guache for them.  Interesting stuff, gouache, pretty good colour and a nice matte finish when dry.

Then, during my stay at Artscape:

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I began by making a few stitched paper works, using the materials I had brought with me.  These were meant to be xmas cards... but then I got bored; I did not want to do my usual studio things.

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So off I went to the beach, where I piled up some rocks and bricks...

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... and noticed my shadow!

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I made drawings on the studio wall, using a fine hemp twine (thank you Ross) and push pins.  This is a detail photo.

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I made portraits of various people who were staying at Artscape - some from our group and some others too.  This one is of writer Helen Guri.

I also made a number of one-minute videos, which I will post either here or on youtube, sometime soon.  Soon = once I learn how.  :)

There were many interesting things that happened during the residency: conversations and ideas and experiences that will resonate with me for some time to come.  My mental/spiritual percolator is a slow thing, which is fine with me but which means I have not much to say in a any concrete way about the things we explored during our time at Gibraltat Point.  I think things will filter out in the studio, mostly, without my having to necessarily articulate everything in words.  Words can be so cumbersome anyway.

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laughing artists

The two photos of our group were taken on our last full day at the residency.  First we were serious, but very soon we were laughing.  I will treasure for many years my memories of those two weeks spent with some very special people at Artscape.

On returning to Calgary I was very eager to get back into my studio, and immediately spent many hours creating new work.  More about that in my next post.


20 October 2014

the opening

Our exhibition opening was a great success!  Whew!  *laughs*

Many thanks to Rachel Bouchard, gallery owner, who curated the exhibition beautifully, and to Amy Dryer.  Amy and I are both very prolific artists so Rachel had a lot of choice in what to show.  As you can see from the photos below, she created a wonderful flow of shape and colour throughout the gallery.

Front Gallery
12312 Jasper Ave, Edmonton AB

verna vogel & amy dryer exhibition at the Front Gallery
view from just inside the front door

verna vogel & amy dryer exhibition at the Front Gallery

Blake Ward's figurative sculptures
2D and 3D work nicely balanced

verna vogel & amy dryer exhibition at the Front Gallery

verna vogel & amy dryer exhibition at the Front Gallery

verna vogel & amy dryer exhibition at the Front Gallery

The response to my Multiples was very positive, and a couple of pieces even sold during the opening.  Amy's work was also very well received.  All in all we had a great afternoon.

verna vogel & rachel at the Front Gallery 2014
with Rachel Bouchard, gallery owner

verna vogel, amy and rachel at the Front gallery 2014
with Rachel and Amy

verna vogel & amy at the front gallery 2014
with Amy Dryer

To visit the Front Gallery website, click here.

If you would like to know a little more about the work I made for this exhibition, you can visit my website.

We stayed overnight in Edmonton, and this is what I saw first thing the morning after the opening:

A lovely sight after a very positive public reaction to my new works.

10 October 2014

upcoming exhibition

The Front Gallery
12312 Jasper Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5N 3K6
Telephone: 780-488-2952

03 October 2014

coming and going

This week I sent off the work which will be in the upcoming exhibition at the Front Gallery in Edmonton.  It will be the main public exhibition of the Multiple Suites; I'm feeling excited and also a bit nervous.  Going out:

In the studio a new piece is coming along.  Below, sidelighting really shows off the stitching:

Thinking about potential shapes and colours:

And this piece:

has undergone some improvement:

Feels better now.

26 September 2014


Quite awhile since I made a blog post.  I've been doing a bit of writing in the last few weeks, and have spent a bit less time in the studio.  

While in the studio, I've been engaged in the processes for completing work, such as final coats of clear medium and varnish, finishing edges, wiring backs, updating the inventory book - all those little things that need to be done to make the work gallery-ready.

The writing has been focussed on a residency application for ArtScape, and also on collecting my thoughts in preparation for finding another gallery.  Since AXIS closed I have not made any inquiries into a replacement gallery, feeling I needed to give my work some space to develop without pressure.  This proved to be a very good decision for the first half of 2014 - but now it begins to feel like procrastination.  The time has come to make some forays.

It's an interesting rhythm of solitary studio time interspersed with the need to communicate and get the work out there.

And now for some pretty pictures.  :)

Went out painting last weekend.  Photographing the process did not even occur to me at the time! - but I did photograph the finished work on location:

Above: in the field.
Below: tweaked a bit after returning home.

The main change was to the line of trees at lower left.  Also made some subtle changes in the middle bit - reduced the curvy mown-field lines and some small adjustment to the middle trees.

And a nice view of fence posts across the road from where I was painting.

In the studio, besides gallery-ready work, there are 2 new "Snapshot" pieces underway.  Number 15:

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initial sketch

steel sky woman
stitched & stretched

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and ... pause

While that one is on pause, I begin #16:

steel sky woman
"Edifice" initial sketch

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some layout

steel sky woman
stitched and stretched and ready for painting

Probably because I'm feeling pressure to find another gallery and have not yet done so, in this last month I've felt like I've accomplished next to nothing.  Making this entry, I see that is not true.  
Hmmm.  So here we have two important functions of maintaining this blog, hey: it keeps things in perspective, and it keeps me focussed on what I need to do.

Until next time,

15 August 2014


After spending 6 months focussed on making purely abstract work, I needed a change.  So here is an about-face: working with photographic imagery again.  The "Snapshots" series continues!  

About a year ago I had some photos printed with the intention of working them into paintings, but then I lost steam on the urban stuff.  Everything just seemed to deflate and there I was, floating in a creative void.  What an anxious feeling!  I wondered if that was it; it was a good run but urban work was a thing of the past for me.  

Not so, apparently.  A new piece:

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steel sky woman

steel sky woman
acrylic and mixed-media stitching on canvas
56w x 39h inches
There are things I like and things I don't like about "Intersection", but I'm setting it aside for now.

A piece begun months ago, finished this week.  This is the only photo I have of it at the moment, skewed, taken at an angle:

steel sky woman

Hmm, not a bad composition with the strong angled lines; perhaps this will inform the next painting.

And a piece made half-heartedly last year:


East Meets West
acrylic and mixed-media stitching on canvas
64w x 39h inches
I'm liking "East Meets West" a lot better now.  The re-working veered away from my original intent, which is good - keeps me on my toes.  It may be finished... set aside for now.

Working in the studio this week, I realize it's been a couple of years since I felt this excited about making urban-themed paintings.  Now I am feeling eager and curious as to where these "snapshots" will lead!

And, interestingly, I also want to continue with some of the pure-abstraction ideas I worked up over the last 6 months.  First, however, this other exploration.  I think that by moving back and forth in this way the two directions will inform and expand one another.

05 August 2014

plein air road trip

My husband and I recently went on a little road trip.  We left modern technology behind, grabbed our painting kits and headed for the open prairie.

Among other things along our travels, we explored several abandoned homesteads, one-room schools and also an old fort with log buildings half sunk into the earth; we swam in a wild river with sandy banks; we saw our first rattlesnakes outside a zoo; and we discovered a high wetland area with an incredible variety and number of birds.  Also I discovered that the town of Leader, SK has a playground with really big swings in it.  Best swings I've ever played on.

And, of course, we painted the landscapes we travelled through.

verna vogel plein air painting
Alberta Landscape #77
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
On the high bluffs in the badlands above Dorothy.  About 4-6pm, hot and windy.  Small yellow butterflies which made a loud clapping sound while flying.  Scrub grasses, buffalo sage and a proliferation of low-growing cacti.

verna vogel plein air painting
Saskatchewan Landscape #1
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
Very high promontory above the convergence of the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan rivers, near Empress, a Mennonite settlement and the provincial border.  About 5-7pm, very windy.  Lichen-covered rocks and that look of softness in the distant hills.  Swam in the South Sask. prior to painting.  

verna vogel plein air painting
Saskatchewan Landscape #2
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
In the Great Sand Hills.  About 9-11am, hot.  Dead quiet apart from insect sounds and an occasional small rustle of breeze.  Barefoot in the fine, soft sand under a shady tree.  Very relaxing spot.

verna vogel plein air painting
Alberta Landscape #78
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
Above a vast flatland expanse at the edge of the Cypress Hills.  About 6-8pm, very windy, rain and thunderstorms.  I had an umbrella and crazily continued to paint, umbrella in one hand and brush in the other.  Didn't want to leave half-finished!

verna vogel plein air painting
Albert Landscape #79
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
Same location next morning.  9-11am, hot and windy.  Went exploring after painting and found a lovely treed valley full of dragonflies and butterflies.  Rested in the shade, listening to wind in the pines.

verna vogel plein air painting
Alberta Landscape #80
oil on panel, 10x10 inches
High wetlands above Bow river, near Bassano, AB.  5-9pm, not too hot and lovely evening-pink clouds.  We were looking for a road to a medicine wheel and came upon this wetland preserve maintained by Ducks Unlimited.  A lot of water out on the high prairie, and so many types of birds!  Herons, cranes, starlings, blackbirds, ducks of course, some kind of bird that sounded like a bullfrog, and various other types.  It was quite a spectacle of sound and movement.  A surprising little paradise.  

verna vogel plein air painting
Alberta Landscape #81
oil on canvas, 10x10 inches
Same wetland location as above.  This painting did not get finished.  The light was fading fast and we had some way to travel yet before settling for the night.

verna vogel plein air painting
apres-painting in the Great Sand Hills, Saskatchewan
What a wonderful, rejuvenating holiday!